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Union post-game: What we learned, player ratings

Well, Philadelphia Union aren’t thugs after all.

The club showed off a sometimes brilliant display of soccer Saturday in their 3-2 win over D.C. United. If not for two critical and very obvious mistakes, it might have been a perfect game for the Union. No sloppy tackles. No bad bookings. Smart passing, clever attacking, terrific teamwork. Yes, D.C. United is clearly not a good team, but so what? This was a complete turnaround from the first game and shows Union fans have a lot to look forward to this year.

So, what did we learn from Saturday’s game?

  • Roger Torres can play.

Two games into the season, Torres is looking like this year’s Fredy Montero – A quick, creative, young Colombian attacker who comes out of nowhere to shine in Major League Soccer. Sharp on the ball, moves it unselfishly, and has the speed to cause problems for defenders. Assisted on the first goal with a nice cross. Of all the Union’s teenagers, he came in with the least fanfare, but right now, he’s the best of the bunch.

  • Cristian Arrieta is the missing link.

Arrieta played a beautiful game at right back after signing with the Union. Solid on defense, consistent and creative on the attack, Arrieta is a massive improvement over Dave Myrie, who started the first game. With Michael Orozco sliding back to center back and playing well there, we could have in front of us the best back line in MLS.

  • Fred makes a difference.

How different did the Union look from the Sounders game? You might not have guessed you were watching the same team play. Fred played a big part in that. He linked the midfield with the forwards and helped press a consistent attack.

  • The Linc shortchanged Philly soccer fans.

The one good thing about the subpar job done by the Linc is that everyone will look forward to PPL Park’s opening that much more. Security was slow as dripping molasses, thanks to Vice President Joe Biden’s visit, and thousands of fans missed a huge chunk of the first half, including the Union’s first ever goal. Concessions were short-staffed too. I asked a girl working a concession stand if the Linc was at half staff for the game. She laughed, rolled her eyes, and said yes. The Linc’s management wasn’t prepared for 34,820 fans, even though everyone knew a day or two before that 25,000-plus tickets had already been sold. That’s bush league. And that’s why MLS clubs need their own stadiums. Because there, they actually care about soccer.

  • The Union fans were awesome.

The Sons of Ben were out in full force and put on a great show. Everyone else knew what was up too. After D.C. fans started throwing beer and water down on Union fans from the upper tier, the Union fans responded with powerful chants of “D.C. sucks.” And guess what? They were right.

  • Peter Nowak is one of a kind.

First there was the strange lineup for the Seattle game. Then he cut a starter after the first game. He called Freddie Ljungberg old and decrepit and told us all about how soccer is a man’s game. Then he took to the press box after hearing about Poland’s national tragedy, and this was the home opener. The first three were bizarre. The latter was all class and guts. Nowak may become one of the most beloved sports bosses ever in this town.

  • Alejandro Moreno does all the little things.

Le Toux earned the glory, but Alejandro Moreno did the little things. He held up the ball well. He drew key fouls, including the one that led to the third goal. His cross-field pass that created Le Toux’s goal was a thing of beauty. He effectively created all three goals. He was an absolute work horse.

Player ratings

Chris Seitz: 4
Shaky game for Seitz. The second goal was one of the strangest goalkeeping mistakes I’ve ever seen. Made some saves, but he’s now become one of those players who, when the ball goes at them, you hold your breath. Not good for a goalkeeper.

Jordan Harvey: 6
Solid game for the left back. Didn’t add a ton on offense, but didn’t make any mistakes on defense.

Michael Orozco: 5
One bad pass led to the first goal. Stellar game otherwise. Solid on defense and controlling the ball – with that one exception.

Danny Califf: 8
Califf was a beast in midfield. He and Orozco locked down DCU’s attack. Two Union mistakes caused goals, but Califf was responsible for neither.

Cristian Arrieta: 8
A threat on the attack and strong on defense. Consider him a fixture at right back.

Roger Torres: 7
Assisted on the first goal with a nice cross, controlled the ball well all night. Needs to stop diving though. This is Philly. You don’t dive here.

Andrew Jacobson: 6
Seemed invisible, but that may be because he didn’t make any mistakes holding down the midfield.

Stefani Miglioranzi: 6
Fit in seamlessly into the midfield, both on defense and offense. Like Jacobson, he seemed quiet, but that’s what players with his role sometimes do.

Fred: 6
Pressed the attack well. Didn’t show much flash, but you can see that his moments will come.

Alejandro Moreno: 9
See above. Just a brilliant game from Moreno, doing all the little things to help create all three goals.

Sebastien Le Toux: 10
Hat tricks that win the home opener get you a 10. Enough said.

Subs

Shea Salinas: 6
Salinas hides a jet pack in his cleats. Looked dangerous on the left wing after coming in as a sub. Looking forward to seeing what he does with more time.

Jack McInerney: 5
A sweet back heel pass could’ve created a goal, but he also passed up a shot that could’ve been a one-touch laser on goal. Lots of flash, looked dangerous. Some day, McInerney is just going to be sick.

Nick Zimmerman: n/a
Came on late, didn’t get enough time to show anything.

6 Comments

  1. Peter Idler says:

    I was delighted to see my man Arrieta have such a solid game. Even his yellow card was the right play to shut down a potential scoring threat from DC United. I think the union should have dipped further into the PR Islanders’ talent pool and picked up their keeper, Bill Gaudette, as Seitz is now the defense’s weakest link.
    Fred did make a big difference in the lineup.
    I’m glad Le Toux has cemented himself in Union’s history books. I bet the Sounders are kicking themselves for letting him go.
    My guess is that this week the Luciano Emilio deal will go through- I hope. My hunch is that the United were just screwing around in delaying the deal so that they wouldn’t have to face him his first game back in the league.

  2. You might be right here, Peter. That said, the Washington Post reported today that Emilio has returned to Brazil, so we could be in for a long wait. Considering the way Moreno and Le Toux played Saturday, it might slow down any rush to sign Emilio, particularly with McInerney showing flashes of life as a sub.

  3. Ed Farnsworth says:

    I agree that the concessions left a lot to be desired at the Linc and the security checks to get in – well, it will be the stuff of legend. And speaking of security, me and nearly 60 friends were sitting under the DC United supporters section. When it started raining beer one of the people in my group gave the United section the finger. A security person came over to him and confiscated his ticket. Hey security, thanks for looking out for the home team fans! Being covered with beer is fine but give the finger to the people who drenched you and you are in trouble?

    All of that aside, that it is a shame the new stadium isn’t in Philly became very clear to me on Saturday. My party left from Northern Liberties. When we got on the El at Spring Garden there were Union fans scattered throughout the subway cars and more came on with each stop. By the time all of us made the transfer at City Hall Union fans were filling the underground corridors.

    There were even more Union fans (and a few DC United fans as well) on the Broad Street line and the atmosphere was simply tremendous. Getting out at the last stop we were all witness to the proud sight of hundred of Philly soccer fans making the walk to the stadium with kickabouts going on all around us.

    Taking the subway to a game is a particular kind of sports pleasure and I for one will miss the fun of talking to total strangers before and after a game. Driving down 95 to Chester, as excited and proud as I am for the new stadium, just won’t be the same. Oh well – I still can’t wait for June 27!

  4. @Ed: Well, there is a rail station not far away from the stadium. No it’s not the same as taking the subway, but getting a bunch of Union fans in the same rail car and getting things going before the game could still be fun.

    Great game and I can’t wait for the next home match. Another month?! Damn….

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